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Chicago leaders debate city's 'sanctuary' status amid growing migrant crisis — weigh pushing decision to voters
Chicago Alderman Andre Vasquez (Image Source: WLS-TV video screenshot)

Chicago leaders debate city's 'sanctuary' status amid growing migrant crisis — weigh pushing decision to voters

The Chicago City Council engaged in a heated debate last week regarding the growing migrant crisis as some leaders push to have voters decide on the city's "sanctuary" status.

On Friday morning, Chicago's Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights met to discuss the spike in new arrivals and the city's strained resources, WLS-TV reported. According to the outlet, two of the city's aldermen are pushing for leaders to allow voters to decide whether Chicago should remain a sanctuary city.

Anthony Beale, alderman of the 9th Ward since 1999, told WBBM-TV, "The people of Chicago have never been asked, 'Do they want to remain a sanctuary city?'"

Chicago's sanctuary city status was signed into law by executive order in 1985.

"I think the people of Chicago need to be asked that question," Beale continued. "Do we want to continue to spend upwards to $5[00,000,000], $600,000,000 a year on the crisis that we're dealing with?"

Beale called the migrant crisis a "federal problem" that only "certain cities" are facing. He suggested placing more pressure on the federal government to solve the worsening migrant crisis.

"That is not what we signed up for as a sanctuary city," he added. "I think we need to define it."

Alderman Anthony Napolitano of the 41st Ward is also backing calls to allow voters to decide on the city's sanctuary status. Both aldermen have sponsored a resolution to add a referendum to the 2024 primary ballots, WBBM reported last week.

Chicago Democratic Mayor Brandon Johnson recently signed a $29 million contract with security firm GardaWorld to build migrant base camps. The contract states that six locations across the city will be converted into migrant holding zones for 200 to 1,400 individuals. Migrants residing in the shelters will receive three meals per day, bedding, laundry, showers, and security, the Daily Mail reported.

Alderman Andre Vasquez expressed concerns regarding the contract, stating that he is "saddened by the possibility that we are on the precipice of this administration moving forward with military-grade tent base camps in our great city."

"The first of Mayor Johnson's priorities is to replace the police stations with shelters forming a base camp," Johnson's office stated. "Using this contract enables the City to stand up the base camps expeditiously, and more quickly move new arrivals from Chicago Police Department district stations as the weather begins to change."

"As with all City-run shelters, there will be a system in place for individuals to file grievances should any issues arise. The shelters are used in accordance with American Red Cross standards and will be equipped with HVAC systems and heated to a comfortable temperature during the cold weather," the statement continued. "The base camps will be incorporated into the City's toolbox for temporary shelters and provide a safe, short-term space with access to immediate care and resources."

According to reports, approximately 13,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022.

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